Centenarian cowboy


Local resident Merle Fox celebrated his 100th birthday on Saturday afternoon

by: JASON CHANEY - Merle Fox, who celebrated his 100th birthday on Saturday , enjoyed the company of many families and friends at the party.

“Eat like a dog, and if you drink, drink good whiskey.”

These are two of the keys to long living that Merle Fox offered on Saturday.

No need to question his wisdom. He was celebrating his 100th birthday at the time.

Fox, clad in a cowboy hat and Western attire, was never short of visitors during an open house birthday bash held at the Prineville Nazarene Church. Hosted by his children, the event drew many family and friends who were no doubt captivated by his tales of the cowboy life.

“He tells stories of when he was growing up,” said daughter Jo Barber.

“He has so many wonderful stories,” daughter-in-law Carol Fox later added, noting that his tales have prompted local author Rick Steber to interview him a couple of times.

Ask his great-granddaughter Mataya Barber what she remembers most about him, and she’ll mention his stories.

Fox was born a Central Oregon cowboy on Feb. 17, 1914, in Madras. Early in life, his family moved to the Paxton area (between Madras and Gateway) where they built a two-story house that still stands today.

As a young boy he participated in cattle drives with his dad and other ranchers in the area. The job stuck.

“I was in the cow business for years,” Fox said. “I just liked being out. I don’t like being closed in a building, like a mill or something like that. I wanted to be out.”

He later added that his longest cattle drive was from Sisters to Redding, Calif., an effort that took “pert’ near three months.”

Along with his cattle career, Fox worked in the woods and later established a saw shop that he owned and operated for several years.

Jo struggles to explain how her father has managed to live for 100 years.

“He is just healthy,” she said with a shrug. “He just survives it all.”

Carol is equally perplexed, having seen him seemingly eat whatever he wants and do whatever he wants.

“He defies all of the rules,” she said. “He has chewed for years. The doctor told him last time he was there, just keep on doing what you’re doing.”

As Fox waited for an upcoming slide show in his honor, and two cakes proclaiming his centenarian status, he reflected on how it felt to reach the century mark. He recalled the passing of his wife in 1994, and his anticipated lifespan at that point.

“I thought that I wouldn’t see 2000,” he said, “and here it is – ’14.”

While Fox believes that eating like a dog and drinking good whiskey has helped him live 100 years, he stressed a third key to longevity that he ranks highest of them all.

“Be honest. That’s the main thing — honest,” he said. “I have done that my whole life. My dad told me, ‘If you tell a person you will do something, you do it — even if it hurts.’”